Saturday, October 3, 2015

Chris Laterzo: “West Coast Sound” (2015) CD Review

Chris Laterzo’s new CD, West Coast Sound, is full of excellent folk and country rock vibes, with something of a groovy laid-back atmosphere, which of course perfectly suits the album’s title. Though currently based in Los Angeles, Chris Laterzo is not from this city (which is the way with basically everyone I know here), and so there is something of a familiar perspective. And this isn’t the first time Laterzo has sung about the west coast. On WaterKing, he included a song titled “Welcome To California.” As you might guess, this album would be a good companion on a road trip, and there are at least a couple of songs that I’ll be adding to my road trip mix list. This is Chris Laterzo’s fifth album, following 2009’s Juniper And Pinon.

The similarities to Neil Young are clear right from the beginning of the first track, the album’s title track, “West Coast Sound,” in both the vocal approach and the overall country rock sound. And that’s certainly not a bad thing. This is a sound I love. (There is also a Byrds influence.) And check out these lines: “Well, I’ve been here now for so long/Why, I can’t remember my way out/There’s a blue moon high over California.” Maybe that is the way for all of us here; it sounds about right. He plays a bit with the pronunciation of “California” toward the end, giving it another syllable: “Cal-i-for-nee-uh.” Rami Jaffee (of The Wallflowers) plays B3 organ on this track. (Jaffee also plays B3 organ on what is probably the most interesting track, “The Ray Bradbury.”)

That’s followed by “Tumbleweed,” one of the songs that I’ll be adding to my road trip mixes. After all, it opens with the line, “Rolling down the highway, looking out the window,” and also features lines like “The grass may be greener when I round the next bend” (that line, by the way, is followed by “I reckon odds are one in ten,” which I just love). This song has nice country vibes, and a reference to “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds.” The other song that I’ll be putting on my road trip mix list is “Someday Blue,” a wonderful, pretty acoustic song, which begins with these lines: “Sometimes I feel, I feel like sliding behind the wheel/And go driving down an open road/Ride with me shotgun – let’s blow right through the dawn.”

As good as that song is, “Echo Park” is even better. It’s probably my favorite song on this album, and is about a neighborhood in Los Angeles, a place where I’ve seen a good number of concerts. In fact, he sings about that concert venue in the lines, “And I like the feel and sway of old L.A./I like my easy stroll to the Grand ole Echo.” This tune also mentions Neil Young. Dan Wistrom plays pedal steel on this track, and he and Devon Rowland provide backing vocals. Chris Laterzo plays harmonica on this track.

“Subaru” has kind of a fun, playful vibe, and its main line reminds me a bit of “Itchycoo Park,” the way he sings “You drive a Subaru” sounding sort of like the way the Small Faces sang “It’s all too beautiful.” My parents owned a Subaru when I was growing up, and I hated it. It was a two-door car, and I couldn’t stand being trapped in the back seat. That hasn’t changed, actually. Rachel Dean and Jennifer Gibbons provide backing vocals on this track.

CD Track List
  1. West Coast Sound
  2. Tumbleweed
  3. Drag
  4. Someday Blue
  5. Echo Park
  6. Subaru
  7. The Ray Bradbury
  8. Chaperone
West Coast Sound is scheduled to be released in November, 2015 on Yampa Records. 

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